DUBAI – Bilal Asif, the debutant 33-year-old off-spinner, returned 6/36 in Australia’s first innings in the first of two Tests in Dubai.
It has been a long wait for Asif. A late bloomer, Asif did get a chance in one-day international cricket back in 2015, and didn’t do badly, but it took another three years for a second chance – this time, he has made it count.
“I’ve been struggling for the last few years. I made my debut in 2015 against Zimbabwe and, after that, and I’ve made my debut in Tests after three years. So it’s been a long time. I’m working hard at the NCA (National Cricket Academy) and the guys are working very well with me. But I’m here now, I’m happy,” he said after his first-innings heroics.
“Feeling really happy. I have picked up six wickets in the first innings, now I will try to make this as good a debut as I can and keep contributing to Pakistan’s cause.”
Asif is no stranger to big hauls. In fact, in his second ODI – against Zimbabwe in Harare – he returned 5/25 in a seven-wicket win, even opening the batting in the same match and scoring a 39-ball 38. But he didn’t get a wicket in his two other outings, one more in Harare and then against England in Abu Dhabi, and was discarded.
Though out of the frame, it’s not like he didn’t get help. In fact, Mushtaq Ahmed, the former international leg-spinner and now Pakistan Assistant Coach, worked with Asif.
“I was at the NCA camp where I worked with Mushy bhai. I need to really thank him for the work he did with me. I have been working with him in the last three years. I got the reward today – credit goes to Mushy bhai who has always supported me on and off the field,” Asif said.